By KEVIN WEAKS
While car makers try to out-SUV each other in the marketplace, a battle rages among the really big boys, the heavy-duty pickups.
Ford, which sells more pickups than anyone, is the latest to trot out improvements aimed at raising the Super Duty’s workhorse capabilities while defending its market-leading position. In case you’re wondering, “Super Duty” is Ford’s way of distinguishing these trucks from the base model in the Ford Series: the F-150.
Ford’s F-Series has been America’s best-selling truck for 42 consecutive years. For 2020, Ford Super Duty pickups – the F-250, F-350 and F-450 – showcase some cosmetic updates but tout significant improvements under the hood. The 2020 Super Duty has a new look with a new grille, headlamps and fascia and new interior materials, colors and trim inserts. It also features a new powertrain option as well as new driver-assist technologies.
The Ford F-250 is the automaker’s entry-level Super Duty pickup that slots above the standard F-150 pickup and below the F-350 and F-450 pickups, as well as the F-350, F-450, and F-550 chassis cab commercial models. Ford also offers medium duty F-650 and F-750 models for commercial use.
“Ford truck customers are building a better world with Super Duty and we’re helping them work even harder with the most available diesel towing, payload, torque and power you can get in a heavy-duty pickup,” said Mike Pruitt, Super Duty chief engineer for Ford.
For 2020 the base 6.2-liter V8 engine in the F-series will be mated with a six-speed transmission. There’s a new step-up engine for 2020, a 7.3-liter V8 with 430 horsepower and 475 lb.-ft. of torque – the most powerful gas engine ever offered in a Super Duty. It will be paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission. This new transmission has selectable drive modes that include normal, tow/haul, eco, slippery, and deep sand/snow. Ford explains that despite adding four gears, the 10-speed unit fits in the same space as the previous six-gear system and weighs just 3.5 pounds more.
A redesigned 6.7-liter diesel V8 will be the choice for challenging commercial and towing duties. About a decade ago, Ford’s Power Stroke diesel engine maxed out at 350 horsepower and 650 lb-ft. Those numbers are now a whopping 475 and 1050, respectively, which overtake the most powerful heavy-duty Ram (1,000 lb.-ft.) as well as the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra HD (910 lb.-ft.).
HAULING POWER AND MORE
Back in 2010, the Super Duty topped out at 24,600 pounds of maximum towing. The 2020 model now maxes out at 37,000 pounds of gooseneck towing. That’s 1,500 more than the strongest GM alternatives and 1,900 more than the mightiest Ram. Ford also says the latest Super Duty boasts the highest conventional (24,200 pounds) and fifth-wheel (32,500 pounds) tow ratings.
To put the capability of Super Duty into perspective, its maximum available towing figure means a properly configured F-450 could tow about as much weight as 31 American quarter horses at 1,200 pounds. That is one big trailer. For 2020, maximum towing capacity increases across all Super Duty pickup series – F-250, F-350 and F-450 – versus the outgoing model.
The Super Duty will be available with Pro Trailer Backup Assist, a helpful feature seen on other Ford trucks. This system helps in backing up with a trailer, enabling the driver to steer via knob (rather than the steering wheel) while monitoring the rearview camera display.
Starting at just under $34,000, the basic XL trim has automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, blind spot warning and a blind spot information system optional. These features are standard on XLT trim and above. Adaptive cruise control is optional starting on Lariat and standard on Platinum and Limited. Other technology include an embedded 4G LTE modem with Wi-Fi access for as many as 10 devices and available lane-keeping alerts, depending on the model. A well-equipped F-250 can raise the ante to more than $45,000.
Super Duty trucks are all about business. It’s a mobile office for some. Occupants will find changes to materials and color choices to make for a more comfortable and inviting space. Modern touches include the addition of wireless charging and USB-C ports so you can charge your phone or laptop. King Ranch, Platinum and Limited models include real woods and brushed aluminum trim. Limited features authentic materials like genuine leather, quality coarse ash wood in black and modern black brushed aluminum.
EARTH-SHAKING NEW TREMOR PACKAGE
Keen to capitalize on every kind of full-size truck buyer, including those who like to play dirty, Ford will also offer a new Super Duty off-road package called the Tremor. Their thinking behind the Tremor Off-Road Package is that 70 percent of full-size truck customers accessorize their trucks, and 15 percent of Super Duty owners remove and replace their wheels and tires within the first six months, often adding lifted suspensions to the setup as well. Ford hopes to bypass that inconvenience by offering the truck an owner wants, right off the showroom floor (Chevrolet has done similarly with its Midnight Edition vehicles).
The Super Duty Tremor is available on the XLT, Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum trim levels, in either F-250 or F-350 grades. Unlike the Ram Power Wagon, the Super Duty Tremor can be had as either a 7.3L gas or a 6.7L diesel pickup. Ram relegates the Power Wagon package to the 6.4L Hemi only.
The Super Duty Tremor starts off with a slight lift over stock, about two inches up front and slightly less in the rear. That raise also necessitates revised front-end suspension geometry, and progressive-rate springs help control the ride without sacrificing much in the way of payload or towing capacity. The rear stabilizer bar has been tuned with a lower spring rate, helping it flex more over obstacles.
The most affordable Diesel Tremor comes in at $62,970 after an optional $1,130 maximum towing package.
FOR F-SERIES CUSTOMERS, ‘THEIR TRUCK IS THEIR BIGGEST TOOL’
Ford F-250 to F-550 Super Duty trucks are assembled at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville. Actually, Ford has two plants in Louisville. In addition to Super Duty trucks, it makes Expeditions and Lincoln Navigators. And it produces the Ford Escape and Lincoln MKC at the Louisville Assembly Plant. Between the two plants, the company has about 12,600 workers, making it Louisville’s largest manufacturer. Medium-duty F-650s and F-750s are assembled at Ohio Assembly in Avon Lake, Ohio.
Trucks have remained a strong business for Ford. Last year, Ford sold 1.1 million trucks, up 1.4 percent from 2017. SUV sales were up 0.5 percent, but car sales were down 18.4 percent in 2018.
The F-Series Super Duty had the most market share in industries such as government, with more than 60 percent share; petroleum, with 50 percent share; and utility services, with more than 45 percent share, according to Ford.
“Super Duty customers have demanding and diverse needs – from towing heavy trailers to repairing critical infrastructure,” Ford North America president Kumar Galhotra said. “Productivity is their life blood, and their truck is their biggest tool.”
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